27 Famous Unsolved Murders
On 19th November 2015
Every year a large number of murders go unsolved, but some gain such infamy that they remain in the public mind for many years to come. This is a list of the ten most famous murders in modern history. The one rule I had for this list was that there had be a body – this excludes people like Jimmy Hoffa.
#1 Boy In The Box
The Boy in the Box was a murder victim who was found in 1957 in wrapped up in a blanket inside of a bassinet, which was inside a cardboard box in a field near a Philadelphia country road. The boy was probably between 4 and 6 years old and had been bludgeoned to death. The box was from a JC Penny store just 15 miles away from the field where the it was found, but detectives couldn't trace down the purchasers as the store typically dealt with cash.
Neither the blanket nor the boy could provide any additional information about the death. No one could even figure out when the boy died.
In 2002, a witness stepped forward, saying her parents were the murderers of the boy. Though her story was detailed and consistent, there's no hard evidence to back it up.
#2 Amber Hagerman
Amber Rene Hagerman was nine years old when she was abducted and murdered while riding her bicycle in an abandoned grocery store parking lot near to her grandparents' home in Arlington, Texas on January 13, 1996. No suspects were ever identified. Police responded to the area after an anonymous 911 call, claiming that a child was screaming and a man in a truck was kidnapping her.
Four days after her abduction, Amber's body was found with her throat cut in a drainage ditch. Police never released whether there was any evidence of sexual assault.
In the past few years, a witness finally stepped forward, claiming to have seen the abduction. He told police he saw a man in a black truck, grabbed Amber from her bike and threw her into the truck, and sped away.
While Amber's killer has yet to be caught, her legacy remains as her murder led to the development of the AMBER Alert system. The system has helped save over 500 abducted or missing children since its inception in the U.S. and several foreign countries.
#3 Andrew and Abby Borden
On August 4, 1892 Andrew and Abby were found brutally murdered in their home with a hatchet in Fall River, Massachusetts.
Her father was found with 11 hacks in his face, his stepmother had 19 to the back of her head. Both were hacked to bloodied pulps. The first blow on both of them was so forceful that it surely killed them both immediately.
Lizzie was suspected immediately, as the town knew of the hateful rift between her and her stepmother. Additionally, during the week of the trial, Lizzie burned a dress that she claimed had paint on it, but prosecutors alleged that it was covered in blood and she burned it to cover up the murder. She was acquitted of all charges, the case was found inconclusive. She didn't even though she was treated as an outcast for the rest of her life. She died in 1927 and no other suspects were charged.
#4 The Axeman of New Orleans
The Axeman of New Orleans was a well-known serial killer who broke into several homes by breaking down his victims' doors with an axe. The murders took place between 1918 and 1919, and no evidence was ever strong enough to arrest anyone. The axeman taunted the city with his crimes, even writing letters to local newspapers in which he claimed to be a demon from hell. Twelve identified victims were found.
The Axeman would come in the night, chisel a panel out of the back door, and behead and dismember his victims in their sleep. What confused police the most was this ritual and if it was the murderer's signature or his MO.
A series of the same murders took place in Texas and Louisiana in 1911, with 49 victims being murdered. The killer left a note for police one night saying, "When He maketh the inquisition for blood, He forgetteth not the cry of the humble, human five."
A rumor was spread that perhaps the serial killer was a man named Joseph Momfre, who was eventually murdered by the widow of one of the victims. A ringleader for blackmailers in the New Orleans mob, Momfre was imprisoned in 1911 shortly after the first set of murders ended and released in 1918 just before they began again. There is little evidence thought that supports Momfre as the actual killer
#5 The Black Dahlia
Los Angeles's most famous murder, The Black Dahlia refers to Elizabeth Short, who was murdered in 1947. Her body was discovered in a park in Los Angeles and her death has been publicized repeatedly, mostly because of how particularly gruesome the murder was. Her body was found, nude, posed, mutilated, and sliced in half at the waist. She had been completely drained of blood and scrubbed clean.
In 2013, the case made headlines again when police did an extensive search of Dr. George Hill Hodel's house (one of the main suspects), where incriminating evidence of human body decomposition had been found before. Soil samples from the house were taken in to be tested.
A conversation was also recorded between Hodel and an unknown person when Hodel said, "Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary because she's dead." The craziest part? Hodel's son, Steve Hodel, was the police officer in charge of the case and is convinced is father is the one who killed Elizabeth Short. He also believes his father killed an additional dozen women throughout the L.A. area.
#6 Jack The Ripper
Probably the most infamous unsolved murder case in history, Jack the Ripper was known for his activity in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. His victims were typically prostitutes who were strangled and mutilated, with their throats slit and their organs removed, including hearts, uteruses, and kidneys; he sent countless cryptic letters to police, describing his victims, leaving puzzles, and threatening to kill again
His true identity was never discovered, but suspected culprits were doctors, slaughterhouse employees, butchers, and even Queen Victoria's grandson, Prince Albert Victor.
New research using a geographical algorithm in 2014 has revealed the very street that the murderer lived on in the slum of East London, just 200 yards from where his victims lived and were killed. The road, known as the "wicked quarter mile," was a bustling street at the time, and where all five girls frequented a pub there. The street was destroyed during the Blitz. Researchers believe that Jack the Ripper was a poor man with a menial job, and even died in an insane asylum, after being committed for another crime.
#7 The Hall-Mills Murder
The Bodies of Reverend Edward Wheeler Hall and Eleanor Mills were discovered in 1922 in New Jersey under a crab apple tree. Their bodies were carefully posed, laying side by side with their feet point towards the tree. Hall had died from a single shot to the head, but Mills had been shot three times, with her tongue and larynx cut out, with a slash going ear to ear. Hall's hand was under Mills's neck, and Mills's hand was on his knee.
Explicit love letters the two had written to each other were found torn up and surrounding the bodies, suggesting that their love affair was the motivation for their murders. Mills was married to the church janitor and was known for being Hall's lover.
The main suspect was Hall's wife, Frances Stevens Hall, who the reverend had married for money, as she was the heiress of a family fortune.
Jane Gibson, a hog farmer who lived close to the crime scene became the star witness of the case. She said on September 14, 1922, she saw someone walking in her cornfield. She got on her horse to confront the person, who she thought was a thief, until she found a car and heard a couple arguing. She said the woman had white hair, just like Frances Steven Halls. She then yelled, "Explain these letters!" There were gunshots, screaming, and another woman's voice that yelled, "Henry!" Scared, Gibson rode off.
The crime scene was a complete disaster; people trampled all over it, pulling bark from the tree under which the bodies laid, and souvenirs were taken. It was also improperly treated by police and no autopsies were performed. Family members were named suspects and Hall's brother-in-law's fingerprints were identified four years later. All were acquitted of any charges.
Some believe Gibson to be the killer. Others believe that Halls was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and had broken a moral code, as some of the characteristics of the murder resembled their killing signatures.
#8 JonBenét Ramsey
Six-Year-old JonBenÃ©t Ramsey was a child beauty pageant contestant who disappeared in her home in Boulder, Colorado, in 1996. A ransom note was left to the parents by an anonymous group, demanding $118,000 for the safe return of Ramsey, which was found just a few hours before her body was found. However, no call from the kidnapper came as a followup, and no murderer was ever linked to the note.
Her body was found in the basement eight hours after her parents reported her missing. She had been struck on the head and strangled.
Ramsey's mother, Patsy Ramsey, was a prime suspect, but died in 2006 of ovarian cancer. DNA evidence in 2010 indicated that no one in the Ramsey family was involved in the murder, and over 150 DNA samplings still link to an unknown third party. DNA from blood that was found on her clothes was taken in 2003 and entered into the CODIS system, but there have been no matches found and her death remains unsolved.
#9 Julia Wallace
According to Wallace's neighbors, in January 1931, husband William Herbert Wallace was fumbling to open the back door in Liverpool when his neighbors, the Johnstons, noticed him. He said he'd been out for a few hours and came home to find the door locked against him and was clearly agitated. After Johnston suggested he try the lock again, Wallace opened the door and went inside. A minute later he came out shouting, "Come and see! She's been killed!"
Julia Wallace laid in the front parlor, beaten to death, with pools of blood everywhere. Under her body was William Wallace's raincoat. Additionally, the evening before when Wallace went to a club, a message was waiting from him from a R. M. Qualtrough. The call was traced to a phone booth just 400 yards from Wallace's front door. Additionally, no person named R. M. Qualtrough could be found.
Wallace was convicted of murder and sentenced to death but was later overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal. This was the first case in British legal history where an appeal was granted after evidence was re-examined. Wallace died just two years later, and no other suspects have ever been identified.
#10 Julie Ward
In 1988, Julie Ward was a 28-year-old wildlife photographer who was murdered on a safari trip in Kenya. Her body was found a week later, her body burned and dismembered. Local officials stated that she must have been struck by lightning and eaten by lions. Her father pushed for answers and it was discovered that the coroner's report had been altered. Instead of gnaw marks on her bones, there were cut marks discovered, like those from a sharp knife.
Two different trials were held: one suggesting two park rangers were the murderers, the other suggesting the park warden was responsible. Both were acquitted. It is believed that the Kenyan government may have played a role in covering up her death.
More recent developments arose in 2004 when a witness came forward, a former Kenyan intelligence officer, saying he saw Ward get gang raped by three men of the Masai Mara reserve.
"All three men repeatedly raped the British tourist in turn as she pleaded for mercy. The things I saw will live with me till I die," he said.
"A collective decision was taken on the spot to kill her, but before they could kill her, they designed a plot, which must look real, an adventure gone terribly wrong."
According to the witness, Ward was ordered to drive her Jeep several miles away from where they were, and deliberately park it in a deep gully.
"She was then blindfolded and dragged into a small thicket where she was butchered to death," the witness said, "They wanted the murder to appear as if Miss Ward had been attacked by wild animals..."
#11 The Lake Bodom Murders
In 1960 three teenagers were found stabbed to death through the tent they were sleeping in at Lake Bodom in Finland. It was discovered that a fourth victim, Nils Wilhelm Gustafsson had also been attacked but survived the wounds. He was found lying on top of the tent.
Two boys, who stumbled upon the scene around 6am, noticed a blond man walking away from behind the tent. Another boy noticed the same man a few minutes later while fishing on a nearby islet. He has never been identified. The murders were believed to take place sometime between 4am and 6am.
Gustafsson was named a suspect in 2004 and charged with the murders but was later cleared by the district court. A number of suspects were later declared but each were cleared due to insufficient evidence
#12 Marilyn Reese Sheppard
Marilyn Reese Sheppard was murdered early in the morning in her bed in Bay Village, Ohio, in1954. Four months pregnant, Sheppard was beaten to death and her husband, Sam, who was sleeping on the couch downstairs, came up to see what the commotion was about, was also allegedly attacked, survived, and taken to the hospital later that day.
Though Sheppard claimed a bushy-haired man had burglarized their house, ransacking it before the attack, the police found that the house was rather tidy for a ransack dresser drawers had been pulled out but not dumped onto the floor, as a typical ransacking looks. They also found no force of entry into the house.
Sam was tried for her murder in 1954 and was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. He stayed in prison for the next 10 years in prison until 1966, when new evidence arose that Marilyn had been struck to the head 35 times, none of which would've killed her in a single blow, which meant the killer was much smaller and weaker than Sam.
Additionally, a witness testified that Marilyn had given a house key to Cleveland mayor, Spencer Houk, who was believed to be having an affair with her. According to the defense attorney, when Houk's wife discovered the affair, she broke into the Sheppard household and murdered Marilyn. Though this new theory didn't hold much credibility, Sam was found not guilty and was released from prison.
Sam became the inspiration for the movie The Fugitive and died in 1970 of liver failure. His son is still fighting for his innocence today.
#13 Jill Dando
Jill Wendy Dando was an English journalist, television presenter, and newscaster who was named the 1997 BBC Personality of the Year. She was shot to death outside her home in West London in 1999. It's believed that Dando's murder was a signature of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, carried out by his hitmen. Milosevic said he had a grudge against the journalist after she made a TV appeal for the Kosovan refugees who were displaced during Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in the 1990's.
#14 Olof Palme
OlOf Palme was prime minister of Sweden from 1969 to 1976 before he was assassinated. Palme had many strong opinions on a number of issues, including the world power's involvement in the Cold War and the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.
Though he was always accompanied by bodyguards for official functions, he often was unattended when out walked around Stockholm or went on vacation. In 1986, while leaving a movie theatre, Palme and his wife were ambushed. Palme was shot twice in the stomach, and his wife in the back. Though his wife survived, Palme was dead by the time he reached the hospital.
A local drug addict was arrested for the crime and sentenced to life in prison, though his conviction was later overturned. The addict died in 2004 and is reported to have admitted to the murder, though the investigation is still open. A gun was found in 2006 in a lake that is believed to be the weapon used, but no further evidence has been uncovered.
#15 Óscar Romero
Oscar Romero was a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in El Salvador. On March 24, 1980 he was assassinated while conducting mass at the chapel in the cancer hospital where he lived. The assassination was believed to be by members of a Salvadoran death squad after Romero spoke out about the U.S. military supporting the El Salvador government and to disobey orders of shooting innocent civilians. His human rights campaigns made him well known all across the globe and even snagged him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Romero was well aware of the dangers of facing an assassination and spoke openly about being willing to be a martyr for the Salvadoran people. He said, "As a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people
A 1993 report by the United Nations supported the theory that the assassination was carried out by a squad of men trained and funded by the United States, and Roberto D'Aubuisson was charged. One of the men identified to have been an active member of the death squad, Ãlvaro Rafael Saravia, was found guilty in 2004 for aiding and participating in the assassination.
During his funeral in which 50,000 people attended, a bomb went off with wild bursts of gunfire, killing 40. Most people died from getting crushed against the 8-foot tall fences that surrounded the sanctuary where the funeral was taking place while people tried to escape. Several hundreds more were seriously injured. There was not enough evidence to point to those responsible for the acts of the assassination.
Soon after Romero's death, a civil war broke out in El Salvador, lasting for more than 12 years and over 75,000 casualties. It was considered a genocidal war.
#16 Peter Ivers
Peter Ivers was the host of the New Wave Theater when he was found bludgeoned to death in his bed in downtown L.A. in 1983.
Evidence was later unearthed by the Los Angeles Police Department to reopen the investigation. Upon his death, dozens of friends went to Iver's apartment to mourn him, though in doing so, they accidentally tampered with the evidence. A number of theories abound about the cause for his murder. Some say he was killed as the result of a robbery; others speculate that he was killed by one of the attendees of the New Wave Theater. Little headway has been made in solving the Ivers murder case.
#17 Rashawn Brazell
The Case of Rashawn Brazell has gone down in history as one of the most horrific murder cases in the state of New York. 19-year-old Rashawn disappeared from his Brooklyn home in 2005. He had been scheduled to meet his accountant on the morning of February 14, before meeting his mother for lunch. That morning, an unknown male rang the buzzer for Rashawn and the two walked to Gates Avenue Station together. According to eyewitnesses, the pair exited the subway at Nostrand Avenue station. This is the last time Rashawn would be seen alive.
Four days later, two bags of body parts were found on the tracks at the subway station. The fingerprints of the victim were identified as Rashawn. No other information has been recovered about the identity of the unknown male who accompanied him to the subway station, and no breaks have been made in the case. Rashawn's case has been profiled on "America's Most Wanted" a total of five times.
#18 Robert Wone
D.C. Lawyer Robert Eric Wone was 32 when he was found stabbed to death in his friends' house where he was staying in 2006. Victor Zaborsky, Joseph Prince, and Dylan Ward, were also inside the home at the time of his death, though they claimed innocence. According to police, Wone was restrained, incapacitated, and sexually assaulted before being stabbed to death.
According to Prince, he, Ward, and Wone were talking in the kitchen before heading up to bed. Shortly after going to bed, he heard the door chime as it opened, but assumed it was their downstairs neighbor. Awakened by grunts, Prince went down to find Wone bleeding in his bed. He ordered Zaborsky to call 911 as he moved a knife off of Wone and tried to stop the bleeding with a towel.
However, prosecutors named the three roommates as suspects, as there were no signs of forced entry (even though the roommates claimed they notice their back door, which was previously latched, was open), and nothing was missing from their house (Prince said he noticed a knife from their knife block was missing). Paramedics said that it looked as if Wone had been showered, dressed, and put into bed after he'd been stabbed because of how little blood there was at the crime scene. They also noticed that Prince and his two roommates were wearing bathrobes and looked as if they'd recently showered as well.
The roommates were charged with conspiracy, evidence tampering, and obstruction of an investigation. Though the police used standard interrogation tactics with the roommates, telling each of them that the others had different stories and had confessed, they all stuck to their stories.
#19 Rose Harsent
The Murder of Rose Harsent is often referred to as the Peasenhall Murder. She was a servant girl at a home in Peasenhall, England. On the night of May 31, 1902, Harsent was murdered. Her throat was slit and it looked as if an attempt was made to set fire to her body. An anonymous note was found near the body, requesting a midnight rendezvous.
The handwriting matched William Gardiner's, a neighbor who was married with six children. A prominent member of the local church, Gardiner denied any involvement with the murder, especially once it was discovered that Harsent had been pregnant.
Prosecutors' believed Gardiner was having an affair with Harsent and was the father of the unborn child. Police arrested Gardiner twice as a suspect; however, both trials resulted in a hung jury, ending with the case being dismissed and Gardiner being neither convicted nor acquitted.
Some believe that Gardiner was innocent and it was his wife who murdered Rose, but no one was ever officially convicted of the crime.
#20 Suzanne Jovin
Suzanne Jovin was a 21-year-old student at Yale University when she was murdered in 1998. She was found stabbed to death off campus and the investigation into her death has yet to yield a suspect. On the night of her murder, she was headed to the Yale police department on campus. She later ran in to a classmate, Peter Stein, who was out walking. It is believed that Jovin returned the keys to the car that she had borrowed and was walking northeast on College Street.
At 9:55 pm, someone called 911 and reported seeing a woman bleeding around two miles from where Jovin was last seen alive. The police arrived on the scene and found that she had been stabbed 17 times in the back of the head and neck; her throat had also been slit. She had been stabbed so forcefully that the tip of the knife broke off inside her body.
Observers noted a brown van was parked adjacent to where the body was found, a man sprinting in the opposite direction, jumping over shrubs and across a busy street haphazardly. While Jovin's thesis adviser was once believed to have played a role in her death, he officially was no longer a suspect in 2006 and her murder remains unsolved.
#21 The Zodiac Killer
One Of the most notorious unsolved serial murder cases in history, the Zodiac Killer is believed to have murdered at least five people in the San Francisco area during 1968 and 1969, focusing on couples in secluded areas. He was famous for the letters he sent about the murders to the local newspaper. His first murder, college student Cheri Jo Bates, he wrote, "Bates had to die. There will be more." He also wrote a coded message, sending pieces of it to the different local newspapers, threatening that if they didn't publish his message and letters, that he would Kill Again..
Several suspects were in question, but no one was ever charged or brought to trial. However, in 2014, author of The Most Dangerous Animal of All, Gary Stewart claims the killer was his father, Earl Van Best, Jr. New Orleans native Stewart claims he was abandoned by his father and spent 10 years looking for him, leading him to San Francisco, where his father had a criminal record. The most concrete piece of evidence Stewart can give is that in one of the cryptic letters the Zodiac sent to newspapers, he had scattered "EV Best Jr." throughout the letter. Best, Jr. died in 1984.
#22 Raonaid Murray
Raonaid Murray was an Irish murder victim found stabbed to death in 1999 while walking home from a bar. Eyewitnesses say they saw Murray with a man in his 20s, arguing just before she died. Her body was discovered by her sister later, just 50 yards away from their home.
Recent evidence was unearthed, revealing a prime suspect to Murray's murder. The main believed to have killed Murray is a heroin addict who has an obsession with knives, though his name hasn't been released.
#23 Catrine da Costa
Catrine Da Costa was a Swedish married woman, mother of one, prostitute, and heroin addict found dead just north of Stockholm in the late summer of 1984. Her body was dismembered and left in plastic bags that were found on two different occasions. Her cause of death has not been established has her vital organs were removed and her head was never recovered.
While two suspects were found, the statute of limitations ran out on the case, not allowing anyone else to be tried ever again for the case. However, the two men suspected of killing de Costa have been shunned by the local community.
#24 The Notorious B.I.G.
Rapper Christopher George Latore Wallace was better known by his stage names The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie, or Biggie Smalls. He became a central figure in the East Coast hip hop scene during a time when the West Coast scene was dominant in the mainstream, leading to an ongoing feud between the two groups, including his longtime rival Tupac Shakur.
After Shakur's death in 1996, Biggie became concerned about his own life. He was killed in 1997 after leaving the Soul Train Music Awards in L.A. when he was sitting in an SUV and another car pulled up beside him and shot him. No one was ever named a suspect in his death. He was 24 years old.
#25 Death By Tylenol
Adam Janus was suffering from chest pain in the early fall and decided to take several Extra-Strength Tylenol pills. Barely an hour later, he died from the cyanide coating pills. Strangely, later that night after finding Janus's body, his younger brother and sister-in-law also took the same pills and died soon thereafter. Additionally, a young 12-year-old girl took some of the Extra-Strength Tylenol pills from a different bottle and died as well. Two others were also killed by the pills. Ever since this incident, tamper-proof seals became commonplace.
The culprit for the laced Tylenol pills has never been found.
#26 Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier was a French film producer who was brutally beaten to death with a rock and a concrete block outside her holiday home in Ireland in 1996, just after Christmas. She was married to another film producer, Daniel Toscan du Plantier. Although two men were arrested for the murder, they were later released on wrongful arrest. No other suspects have been named
#27 Just the Feet (2007)
What's worse than being part of the top unsolved murders? Being a victim of a possible murder and the only evidence found is your foot. Since 2007, a total of five human feet have washed ashore, still inside of their sneakers. Many suspect this is a foul play, although others believe these are from the four unrecovered victims in a 2005 plane crash. Nevertheless, authorities are still searching for the answer through the use of DNA and modern technology to help solve this case.